The ocean is a cruel place. Everything is trying to eat everything else and there is nowhere to hide. Dangle a writhing baitfish in the ocean and violence will follow. Unfortunately, storing, rigging and fishing live bait is one of the biggest challenges in kayak fishing. We asked three pros to soften the learning curve for livies.

Learn 3 Live Bait Tactics for Kayak Fishing

Kevin Nakada

Hobie Fishing team manager, pro guide at

Location: San Diego, California

Rig: Use a #4 or #6 Sabiki rig to load the bait tube or live well with greenback mackerel or sardines. Rig the bait on a 2/0 ringed live-bait hook attached to 40-pound fluorocarbon leader.

angler puts a live bait fish into his kayak livewell
Storing, rigging and fishing live bait is one of the biggest challenges in kayak fishing. | Feature photo: Jason Arnold

Tactic: When using braided line, don’t set the hook. Braided line does not stretch like monofilament. Pulling too hard could yank the bait out of the fish’s mouth. Instead, crank the line tight and apply steady pressure.

Tale: I had one bait left—a 14-inch greenback. I thought it was too big, but I put it out anyway. A few minutes later I was fighting a 38-pound yellowtail. Big fish like big baits.

Tip: Use a de-hooker to remove the bait from the bait rig. Don’t overload the bait tank and don’t touch the bait. One scale out of place could spook a predator.

Ty Southerland

Host of

Location: Galveston, Texas

Rig: A double-hook king with a single live bait hook through the bait’s nose and a #4, 4x treble through the tail. Add a skirt to the nose of the bait for more flash.

Tactic: Catch live blue runners or cigar minnows with a Sabiki rig. Keep baits alive in a bait bucket or bait tube. Slow troll live baits for king mackerel, tuna and cobia.

Tale: I caught a live bluerunner by casting a Got-Cha Plug behind the surfline. I trolled the bait all the way to the oil rig before the reel started to sing. The result was a five-foot kingfish. One live bait can make your day.

Tip: To save space on the kayak, use handlines to catch live bait. Keep the live bait in a PVC tube with holes to let the water circulate. I drop mine on a rope through the MirageDrive scupper.

Joe Hector

Owner of Extreme Kayak Fishing Tournament Series

Location: Pompano Beach, Florida

Rig: For sailfish use a 4/0 circle hook with 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. For meat fish, use 35-pound titanium leader with a 3/0 J-hook in the nose and a #2 treble hook stinger.

Tactic: Drift live goggle eye over structure and along temperature breaks for wahoo, dolphin, tuna and billfish.

Tale: I once caught three wahoo in three days. Each time, the fish hit as I was letting the bait swim slowly away from the kayak. I could feel the bait get nervous, then the line would take off with the reel screaming.

Tip: Save time by purchasing bait instead of trying to catch it. The best bite is often at dawn. Keep bait alive in a five-gallon bucket with two battery-powered aerators.

This article was first published in the Spring 2015 issue of Kayak Angler. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Storing, rigging and fishing live bait is one of the biggest challenges in kayak fishing. | Feature photo: Jason Arnold




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